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Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Why banks in Egypt remain profitable: Chapter XXII

Profits in the banking sector have grown this year despite an acceleration of the central bank’s easing cycle, a survey conducted by the local press showed. Thirteen banks saw their net income and interest income increase during the first nine months of 2020 even as central bank cut rates by 300 bps in March. Just five banks saw their bottom line shrink during the period, according to the survey, which excluded state-owned giants National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr.

The leaders: Smaller players including Egyptian Gulf Bank (up 43%), ٍSAIB Bank (+35%), Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait (+33%), and Al Baraka Bank Egypt (+27%) saw their net profits grow the fastest. Heavyweights Banque du Caire and CIB were also in the top 10, with net income increasing 25% and 22%, respectively.

Operating income from loans and core operations at banks mostly decreased. But overall, only two banks were worse off following the interest cuts — Faisal Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. Both faced higher interest expenses and unchanged income.

What is happening here? Banks in Egypt lend less to the private sector. A large part of their income comes from investment in government debt, and according to the survey banks stepped up their holdings of long-term bonds during the height of the pandemic in 2Q. This approach has helped them remain financially sound despite the pandemic raising expectations of bad loans and forcing them to ramp up loan loss provisions. That said, Fitch Ratings recently raised a few red flags on why such “weak internal capital generation” might not be sustainable long-term.

IN OTHER BANKING NEWS- BdC and Alexbank have scrapped two of their high-interest savings certificates and are mulling reintroducing them at lower yields, Masrawy reports, citing unnamed employees at the banks. BdC had introduced three- and five-year certificates paying 13% and 13.5% interest and Alexbank three-year certificates with interest of up to 11.75% a few months back. The banks had been offering the certificates to use as collateral for borrowing. The decision to scrap them comes after state-owned NBE and Banque Misr in September stopped issuing the 15% CDs they had introduced at the onset of the pandemic.

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